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U.S. Biathlete Gives Up Olympic Spot To Her Twin Sister

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Tracy Barnes just secured a spot on the U.S. Olympic team heading to Sochi — but almost immediately, she decided to give it up.

She surrendered her spot to her twin, Lanny. The 31-year-old sisters compete in biathlon, the sport that combines cross-country skiing and shooting. Both competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics, and Lanny competed in 2010 as well.

Lanny fell ill during selection races in Italy this past weekend, and she finished sixth, dashing her hopes of qualifying. Only the top five make the Olympic team; Tracy qualified at fifth place.

The two talked with All Things Considered host Melissa Block about Tracy's decision and Lanny's reaction.


Interview Highlights

On how Tracy told Lanny she was giving up her spot

Tracy: I think the decision came pretty quick for me. Although it's a very important decision, it's an easy one to make. ... I asked [Lanny] if we could go on a walk. I told her my decision, and she protested, and then I told her my reasons and how important it was for me that she go.

Lanny: I've seen how hard she works and that she deserves a spot — and she had earned it. But she's been very adamant about this, and I know Tracy better than anybody, and I know this is what she wants. I just want to make Tracy happy.

On why Tracy thought it was the right thing to do

Tracy: I think of it as just transferring it. I'm still in a way going to Sochi, it's just I'm going through her. ... I definitely would like the opportunity to go. There's no greater honor than representing your country in the Olympics, but giving her that opportunity far outweighs going myself.

Lanny: Tracy and I always have this false sense of each other. I always think she's better than me; she always thinks I'm better than her. And I believe in Tracy, and she believes in me. For her to do something like this, it gives me a lot more confidence in myself and in knowing that I can do it.

On the spirit of the Olympics

Tracy: You know, a lot of people get wrapped up in winning gold and the fame of that, but I think the Olympics are about more than just competing. It's about bringing the whole world together and celebrating that.

Lanny: Yeah, definitely. I think, you know, oftentimes we get wrapped up in the medal count. That's why I love that Tracy's story's able to be told, because a lot of times you don't hear stories like this.

On whether Tracy will still travel to Sochi

Tracy: I'm hoping to, for sure — just figuring out if I can swing heading over there.

Lanny: I'd love nothing better than to have her there because she's my source of inspiration. She was there in Vancouver [in 2010]. Having her there, I always do better. When she's gone, it's almost like you're missing a part of yourself.

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